Colin Carr - cello
Colin Carr's Lucid, Lively Bach at BoCo
"Last night cellist Colin Carr, offered J.S. Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cello Nos. 2 in D Minor, 4 in E-flat Major, and 6 in D Major, in riveting, fluid, tastefully understated performances at Seully Hall, Boston Conservatory as the opening of the seventh season of BoCo's String Masters Series, in which a world-class string player gives a recital, followed the next day by a master class.
Carr's musicianship and technical skills are impeccable; he can throw off long complicated runs at a breakneck pace, with apparent effortless ease. Bach wrote comically abrupt shifts of register into the Cello Suites, most drastically in the Prelude of Suite no. 4 with its ongoing sequence of arpeggiated figures spanning two octaves. Carr negotiated every last one of them without losing the long line. And yet within that line, Carr inflects tempos, with the kind of flexibility of tempo that harkens back to Pablo Casals. The way Carr varies his phrasing and bowing helps to bring out the dance rhythms that inspired Bach's music. And he played with a ravishing tone, harnessing his 1730 Gofriller instrument to bring forth ringing fifths and fourths when playing Bach's various double and triple-stopped chords. It was also one of the cleanest solo Bach recitals I've ever heard; even cello deities like János Starker and Yo-Yo Ma let the occasional unplanned harmonic slip into their recitals. But last night, I heard Carr make no substantial mistakes in over an hour of solo playing, no mean feat in Suite No. 6, which was written for a hybrid instrument with a fifth string higher than the standard four strings, and thus has a lot of fast passagework at the challenging top of the register of a conventional cello. Carr played the highest notes with the same tonal security as the plunges down to the bottom of the register."
- James C. S. Liu, classical-scene.com [September 2014]
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2014 Banff Festival
"Classical music lovers are fortunate to have numerous faculty artists in residence at the Banff Centre, not only educating and advising upcoming talent but also giving performances of high quality. In the strings program for several years now, British cellist Colin Carr has provided some of the most memorable performances we will ever likely hear in this part of the world, particularly his luscious interpretations of the Bach suites."
- Calgary Herald [July 2014]
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2014 International Cello Festival of Canada
"After five glorious days of cello-packed programs, the second triennial International Cello Festival of Canada closed with a bang Sunday night.… One of the brightest stars this year -- and there have been many -- has been award-winning English cellist Colin Carr. His infectious joy and ability to communicate seemingly every shade of emotion in whatever he is playing has consistently led to roaring standing ovations. His performance of Beethoven's Sonata in A, Op. 69 on June 21, and soulful Bach Cello Suite no. 6 in D, BWV 1012 heard during the concert on June 20, quickly became two festival highlights.
Elgar's mighty Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, composed in the wake of the First World War, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Most notably, the legendary English cellist Jacqueline du Pré took ownership of this work long ago, and anyone tackling it today surely feels her ghost looking over his or her shoulder.
But Carr showed us his own vision on Sunday with a deeply felt, and carefully considered, interpretation. The charismatic artist began simply, gradually building emotional intensity throughout the work's four movements. At times, his burnished, 1726 "Marquis de Corberon" Stradivari cello, once owned by Winnipeg's Zara Nelsova, appeared an extension of his body as he rocked back and forth, tossing off rapid-fire runs and declamatory outbursts in turn balanced by more introspective passages." - Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press [September 2014]
Beethoven: Complete Works for Cello & Piano
Colin Carr (cello), Thomas Sauer (piano)
"any new version [of these works] would have to be very special to overcome my reservations. I am therefore pleased to report that this new Carr-Sauer set is special indeed, and it goes right to the top of my favorites list. Here are my reasons: Carr's cello sings with a tone of incomparable sweetness and evenness across its entire range. Not once in any of the rapid passage work, forte attacks, leaning into sforzandos, or reaching for high notes up on the instrument's A string is there a hint of stress, forced sound, or the pinched, nasal quality that can turn the cello's tone unpleasant. Carr's playing, in a word, is elegant. Yet it lacks nothing in spirited liveliness where Beethoven calls for bounce, or deeply felt emotion where the music calls for heightened drama and passion… Sauer, who has previously partnered with Carr in Mendelssohn's complete works for cello and piano, has the touch of a true chamber musician; and that's another aspect of these performances that makes them special. The two players engage each other in a musical dialog of perfect reciprocity and balance. Theirs is a conversation between equals, which elucidates the ingenuity of Beethoven's linkage of the two instruments in ways that no composer before him had attempted for cello and piano… MSR's recording plays no small part in the ideal positioning of Carr and Sauer and in assuring an exemplary aural perspective. I realize it may be a hard sell to convince you to acquire this release if you already have more than one set of Beethoven's cello works on your shelf, but all I can do is repeat what I said above: this one is special, and I'm confident that it won't disappoint. Very strongly recommended." - Jerry Dubins, Fanfare [January/February 2014]
"Carr and Sauer play these great works with warmth and fine ensemble. These are performances… played with dramatic understanding… The recorded balance is excellent…" - Moore, American Record Guide [November/December 2013]
"The temptation when playing Beethoven is to confuse richness with density, and intensity with ponderousness. It is one of the best things about this recording that neither cellist Colin Carr nor pianist Thomas Sauer makes that mistake: this complete collection of Beethoven's sonatas and thematic variations for the two instruments reveals all the richness and intensity of Beethoven's music without imposing any ponderous density on it. The gorgeous, dark-hued tone of Carr's instrument is particularly noteworthy." - Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist for Libraries [October 2013]
"Their style is free of turgidity, their technique unblemished. Thomas Sauer and Colin Carr are a secure duo, and Beethoven's command over a tricky medium is theirs, too. Lines are clean and recorded balance is very good. Sauer and Carr offer many virtues…" - Nalen Anthoni, Gramophone [October 2013]
"Carr plays with an exceptionally smooth sound, one of he smoothest on record, and that element of his tonal quality seems to set the stage for the overall feeling of the interpretations as a whole. He is not obsessed with overplaying the dramatic elements or any sort of overly-emotive representation of Beethoven's subtle and sometimes gossamer melodic filigree. This is not to say that power is lacking, only that he is content to allow Beethoven's muscularity sufficient to the cause at hand without overplaying his hand. Sauer also understands this and partners Carr with exceptional understanding and support. The sound is burnished and analog-like with fine digital clarity and spaciousness." - [ * * * * ] Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition [August 2013]
Mendelssohn: Complete Works for Cello & Piano
Colin Carr (cello), Thomas Sauer (piano)
There's an impressive depth of tone to Colin Carr's sound, his phrasing is generous and his projection is outgoing. He also gives himself time to fit in the smallest-value notes, always played with poise, and he is accommodating of Thomas Sauer, whose pianism is similarly a fine blend of discretion and demonstration. What's more, the recording balances the musicians as equals and with immediacy. Both of Mendelssohn's Cello Sonatas are fine works, blessed with engaging melodies, bags of character and a noble sense of proportion. Such largesse is underlined in this performance of the earlier work, unfolded moderately but with purpose and with an exposition repeat in the first movement, the development section taking wing. The slow movement is gently sung and the finale, amiable in its gait, increases to a fine sense of impetus, both players on sparkling form and conversing delightfully. The D major Sonata has four movements to the earlier work's three. It's an expansive work, yet concentrated too, opening with a proudly gregarious theme, one that stays in the mind, and with which Mendelssohn makes hay. This rendition excels in lifting the music off the page while ensuring that melodic contours and dynamic variances are delivered trustily. There's passion aplenty in the first movement, and just a bit of whimsy in Carr's pizzicatos to open the second movement Scherzo (which has elements of being an intermezzo), crisply responded to by Sauer, who makes something regal out of the piano's extended introduction to the third movement Adagio in which, typically, Carr is an ardent but not over-forceful revealer of Mendelssohn's passions. The finale is a tour de force for both musicians, their artistry superb and fed by technical sureness - both do nimble with commendable effortlessness - and their personal rapport. Of the fillers, Variations concertantes opens formally: a seed that grows into a fine bloom, Carr and Sauer tending to the work's needs with long-term declaration while ensuring that its various stages are given full value as well as being nicely discussed between the protagonists. The Song without Words is an affecting encore, simply played but with much heart. Throughout these performances we are once again reminded of Mendelssohn's gift for melody and structure and for many delightful surprises. He is very well served by Carr and Sauer and they in turn enjoy high production values, not least in giving the musicians a tangible presence and as aural equal billing - International Record Review (UK) [July/August, 2011]
J. S. Bach: Cello Suites BWV 1007 - 1012
Recorded live on May 5, 2012, at Wigmore Hall, Colin Carr's recording of J.S. Bach's six Cello Suites is a remarkable demonstration of intellectual concentration, expressive consistency, and physical control that other cellists may envy. Carr's approach to these masterworks is straightforward and deeply personal, following neither historical nor modern schools of interpretation but flowing directly from his own expression in the moment. Because there are no convenient catchwords to apply to his playing, it is perhaps best to think that this is one man's vision of the suites as profound sources of inspiration, and as opportunities to show music's power to affect emotions through the subtlest means available. Carr has clearly mastered these works through incessant practice, so he can focus on playing the suites with a continuous, nuanced line, as well as with an acute sense of the counterpoint implied within the melodies. The results are penetrating interpretations that feel completely organic and whole, and one may listen to both discs in one sitting, feeling that the time has barely passed, so absorbing is Carr's playing. The reproduction is quite clean and clear for a live recording, and there are comparatively few audience sounds apart from the enthusiastic applause. - Blair Sanderson, ALLMUSIC.COM [June 2013]
"Part way through his exceptional solo recital at the Music@Menlo festival, British cellist Colin Carr made light of the heightened mood in the hall. "I think people actually take this music too seriously," he told his audience, after finishing one of the Sunday program's two suites for solo cello by J.S. Bach. "I prefer to see them as pleasant, easy -- an easy listen."
Regarding the suites -- often described as "the cellist's bible" -- he added, "The reason that I play them is that I've got nothing better to do."
It's a good thing Carr has so much time on his hands.
His Sunday-morning recital in Atherton -- one of the festival's "Carte Blanche" concerts, where headliners are given a free hand to devise their own programs -- was "pleasant" in the deepest sense. "Pleasing" is the better adjective: Quiet contentment reigned in the Menlo School's Stent Family Hall. What a way to spend a Sunday morning; as good as crawling into a cozy nook with a favorite book, warmed by light through a window.
Beginning with Suite No. 3 in C major, Carr played with streaming clarity, bounding and bright. His earthy tone enriched the big splayed chords of the Prelude, the hopping rhythms of the Allemande, the expansive soulfulness of the Sarabande. The music was in his fingers. In fact, one could see Bach's cascading logic -- its physical representation -- in Carr's wily shifts in finger position and variety of bow attacks.
In a 2004 Carte Blanche concert, Carr played all six of the solo suites from memory. It was a memorable traversal of the works, which had been largely forgotten until 1890, when 13-year-old Pablo Casals stumbled on a crumbling copy of the sheet music in a Barcelona music shop. (He waited until 1939 to record the suites -- at London's Abbey Road studios, later made famous by the Beatles.)
In Carr's pithier Sunday recital, two suites were plenty (and he tackled solo Kodaly, too). He also performed Bach's Suite No. 5 in C minor, which requires the cellist to change the instrument's tuning. By lowering the top string a whole step from A to G, the player can access additional chords and unleash unusual overtones and resonances, making this suite unique. It is the gravest of the six; "pleasant" doesn't do it justice.
Carr's first chord was a timbral explosion, and he took it on from there, flowing through the Prelude's fugue-like sequences, later opening into the painful beauty of the slow Sarabande. Carr's natural sense of phrasing seemed to scrub clean the concluding Gigue: For this listener, Bach's nifty voice leading and implied harmonies have never been easier to follow.
After intermission, Carr again retuned his instrument, this time for Zoltan Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8. It instructs the player to lower the bottom two strings by a half-step, from C to B and from G to F-sharp, making possible more unusual resonances and contributing to the work's essential character.
This year's Menlo festival, titled "From Bach," attempts to spell out the connections between Bach and composers to the present day. Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello (1915) echoes Bach in specific chords and cadences. But Kodaly also was fascinated by Eastern European folk music, which he imitates with keening vocal-like effects and "unbridled slash-and-burn virtuosity," as Carr put it in his program notes.
Dedicating his performance to the late János Starker, who put this piece on the map, Carr rooted into the sonata's raw moans and ululations, shimmering pizzicato chords and volatile bass effects, which rattled the cello -- and the room. It was a terrific blood-and-guts performance that Bach could never have imagined." - Colin Carr's Music@Menlo program: Bach, Kodaly [July 2013]
By Richard Scheinin, email@example.com